If you’ve paid attention to our culture in the past several years, you’ve probably noticed a few new terms springing up in our vocabulary: “information age,” “social media,” “blogging,” “tweeting,” “texting,” and so forth. The way we communicate with each other has changed drastically in recent years. In fact, I am typing these very words into a new blog post for our church website. After I’m finished here, I will copy and paste this article into a new note on our Facebook page, and only then, at the end of the month, will I assemble this and other articles into a paper newsletter for people in our church without Internet access.
Like it or not, the way our society communicates has changed – and continues to change – into something never before seen in human history. Rather than bemoan the loss of the way things used to be, though, I believe our response as Christians should be to find new and creative ways to spread the message of Jesus Christ within the context of the culture in which we live.
This task has become very difficult, however, on account of the system through which many people communicate today. Allow me to illustrate with one current example. In the past six weeks, two articles have appeared on the “Belief Blog” of CNN’s website. The first was entitled “The Bible’s surprisingly mixed messages on sexuality,” and the second was a response entitled “The Bible really does condemn homosexuality.” Both articles are well-written and articulate, even though the first article is not as biblically sound as the second.
You might imagine that these articles got quite a response from the public. In fact, each article has received around 4,000 comments from everyday people – and that includes the second article, which is only six days old right now. As I scan through the thousands of comments on these articles, I am struck by one important observation: no significant dialogue takes place in this online format. Everyone posts what they believe or what they feel, and they are quick to attack and find flaws in the opposing position.
This has even affected conversations within the Church of God, albeit on a smaller scale. The Church of God has its own social media site called MyCHOG, where people share ideas and discuss important issues. Even in our own sub-culture, discussions about hot-button ethical topics often devolve into name-calling and finger-pointing.
It is as if twenty-first century Americans no longer want to learn or to discuss. Instead, we want to argue and to prove the other guy wrong. Again, we should not bemoan this change and yearn for days gone by, because (a) we must work for Christ in our current context, not in the past, and (b) these “information age” changes are only highlighting human characteristics that have been with us all along.
How do we communicate the message of the kingdom of God to our lost and dying world? I propose that the solution is not found in arguments, debates, or blog comments. Instead, one potential solution lies in our ability to become good storytellers. But I’ll save the rest of that thought for next week.